Proactively Defending Your Lease – The Use of Injunctions to Protect a Producer’s Rights

Producers often find themselves in situations where a landowner denies access to the leasehold estate; either for regular drilling operations, pipelines, right-of-ways, or for seismic/geophysical analysis. Usually there is little doubt that the producer is entitled to such access by the terms of the lease. However, this issue is often urgent enough that there is insufficient time to wait for a drawn out court determination regarding the contractual breach. Instead, producers can and should seek injunctive relief through the courts.

Injunctive relief is a type of equitable relief whereby a court requires somebody to take a certain action (for example, open a locked gate on a lease road) or cease from taking further actions (for example, stop preventing a seismic team from coming onto the property to take measurements). In Ohio, a request for injunctive relief can be filed at the same time as the complaint for the contractual violations, but the court will hear it much sooner.

A party seeking injunctive relief may request a temporary restraining order, which will last no more than 14 days. This can be requested immediately without a hearing (ex-parte) or with notice and having a hearing conducted (usually within a week of filing). Depending on the nature of the issue, the urgency, and the potential for harm to the producers’ equipment, business or others; courts often grant this type of relief without a hearing. Ultimately, a hearing will be conducted and if the producer can show that there is ongoing harm, or potential for harm (among other issues) then the temporary restraining order will be converted into a preliminary injunction that lasts until the case goes to trial. At trial a preliminary injunction can be converted into a permanent injunction against the defendant/landowner.

If your lease rights are being interfered with injunctive relief is an important tool to use in protecting those rights. The attorneys at Black McCuskey are experienced in using injunctive relief to benefit and protect our clients, both in the oil and gas industry and in their other business ventures. Please feel free to contact Attorney Robert B. Preston, III at [email protected] or any member of our oil & gas or litigation practice groups.